Frédéric Brusi. Foto: Niklas Björling.

Frédéric Brusi


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Works at Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 E, plan 7
Room E 682
Postal address 106 91 Stockholm 106 91 Stockholm


My thesis in the history of religions is titled “Hallowed Grounds: Islamic Saint Cults in Northern Sudan”, and is an ethnographically influenced research project that aims to further develop “lived Islam” as a field of research through field work on saints’ shrines (magaber al-awliya) in northern Sudan. The research seeks to investigate these sacred men and women, as well as their resting places: how these places are used in daily religious practice, for what purposes they are used, how a saint is construed in a tradition that has no central rule for canonisation, and what role the “saints” play for people in their Islamic practices.

The “awliya” concept is contentious in the theological history of Muslims, and can be viewed as a cause of division between different forms of Islam, particularly following the eventful 19th century and the Muslim world’s encounter with industrialism and the challenges of modernism. Previous research (Hopkins & Saad 2005; Karrar 1992; Kennedy 1978; Kenyon 2012) has demonstrated that the areas in northern Sudan and southern Egypt are reservoirs of popular Sufism and religious expressions that are often associated with Sufi rituals and practices. The aim of my research is to increase the academic knowledge of these religious expressions as majority Islam in contrast with modern Islamic puritanism.

My main source material consists of observations and semi-structured interviews from ethnographic field work in Sudan, as well as relevant historical-theological texts used to contextualise the research area. An important demarcation is that the study focuses primarily on Muslims who are not organised religiously. Thus, this is not a study of Sufi brotherhoods and their practices; rather, it explores the cult of saints as a means to practice Islam in daily life.

Besides my thesis project, I am interested in the followings topics: Muslim hagiography in general; Muslim neo-moralism and transfers of morality between Europe and the Muslim world in the 19th century; the Abrahamian traditions in North Africa, with a special interest in the evolution and roots of Coptic Christianity; magic, and spirituality (e.g. “ghost riding”) in Muslim folklore; heresiology; Egyptian Judaism; and cannabis as a ritual plant in Muslim culture.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2015. Frédéric Brusi, Hans Christian Korsholm Nielsen, Elie Wardini.

    This paper describes how everyday muslims with no formal (or weak) affiliation to sufi brotherhoods in Upper Egypt practice and relate to sufism as a grand scheme or larger islamic tradition. The thesis highlights the importance of islamic sainthood in everyday religion, whereby the saintly dead are regarded as acting intermediaries between the divine and the worldly realms. Saints, holy people and blessed places are given agency through divine blessings, thus allowing villagers to partake in a larger islamic tradition through the mediation of– or cult connected to saints. This paper intends to demonstrate that an islamic concept of sanctity in muslim environments does not only exist historically, but is central to the contemporary religious landscape of Upper Egypt. 

  • 2011. Frédéric Brusi. Perspektiv på Islam, 205-211
Show all publications by Frédéric Brusi at Stockholm University

Last updated: June 1, 2020

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